Editor's Note: First published on August 24, this article has been updated to reflect the resignation of Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad.
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad resigned from all posts in the Congress on Friday saying the situation in the Congress had reached a "point of no return".
Azad's letter said that the party had given the top post of the party to a "non-serious" individual and in turn conceded all space in national politics to the BJP and to regional parties in states.
"The entire organizational process is a farce and a sham. At no place anywhere in the country have elections been held at any level of the organisation. Handpicked lieutenants of the AICC has been coerced to sign on its list prepared by the coterie that runs the AICC sitting in 24 Akbar Road," Azad said in the dig to the Gandhis.
Azad's resignation and criticism of the party leadership come at a time when Congress has seen a spate of resignations this year. The most recent being Jaiveer Shergill. Several prominent faces in the party have either quit posts assigned to them or left the party altogether. And not just in 2022, Congress saw prominent leaders leaving the party in 2021 as well. Each one of them has pointed to factionalism within the party and problems with the party leadership.
Jaiveer Shergill says Congress ignoring "ground reality"
Congress leader Jaiveer Shergill, who was the national spokesperson, resigned from all posts on Wednesday citing problems with the party leadership and claiming that the Congress top leadership had lost touch with ground reality. In his resignation letter to Sonia Gandhi, Shergill was deeply critical of the party's decision-making.
ANI quoted his resignation letter as saying, "It pains me to say that decision-making is no longer for interests of public and country, rather it's influenced by the self-serving interests of individuals indulging in sycophancy and consistently ignoring on-ground reality."
Shergill further explained his resignation saying the decisions being taken by the Congress was driven by sycophants. He told ANI, "I've resigned from all posts in the Congress party. The primary reason for the resignation is that the decision-making in INC is no longer being done keeping the interests of the public. It's purely being influenced by a coterie who merely indulges in sycophancy."
He also claimed that he had not been given a chance to meet Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi or Priyanka Gandhi in the last year.
The Congress has not had a formal presidential election or a president since Rahul Gandhi quit the top post after the 2019 Lok Sabha poll debacle.
Anand Sharma quit Himachal poll committee
Rajya Sabha member Anand Sharma resigned as the chairperson of Congress's steering committee for the Himachal Pradesh elections on Sunday saying he had been insulted and felt excluded. He, however, said that he was committed to the party's ideology and was a Congressman at heart. "Committed to Congress ideology that runs in my blood, let there be no doubts about this! However, given the continuing exclusion and insults, as a self-respecting person- I was left with no choice," Sharma said on Twitter.
Sharma on Wednesday pointed out that the Congress needed to solve factionalism and work as a unit to revive itself. He told ANI, "If we bring about some internal changes, renewal and revival of Congress will be done. Congress cannot revive by having A group or B group, Congress collectively has to revive."
Sharma's remarks were made hours before the news of Shergill's resignation broke.
Kapil Sibal leaves Congress
One of the most prominent faces in the Congress in recent times, Kapil Sibal resigned from the party in May 2022. While he did not criticise the party after quitting, he had explicitly expressed that the Gandhis needed to "step aside" for the betterment of the party. "I have chosen to snap my ties with the Congress for reasons that I do not wish to talk about now. Now that I am not in the Congress party, I do not wish to say anything adverse, anything that is inconsistent with the culture of politics that we must embrace. Within the Congress, I could say what I wanted to say. Now that I am not in the Congress, I do not wish to criticise anybody in the Congress," Sibal had said.
Two months earlier, in March, Sibal had said the leadership was living in "cuckoo land" and said that the Gandhis needed to step aside.
"We are assuming now that Rahul Gandhi is not the president of the Congress and Mrs Gandhi is. Rahul Gandhi went to Punjab and made the announcement that Charanjit Singh Channi will be the Chief Minister. In what capacity did he do that? He is not the president of the party, but he takes all the decisions. He is already the de facto president. So why are they asking him that he should take back the reins of power?" Sibal was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.
Hardik Patel jumps ship to BJP
Patidar leader Hardik Patel joined the Congress right ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. His stint with the party lasted a little over three years with Patel quitting the party shortly before Sibal in May and then joining the BJP in June. Patel, in a scathing resignation letter, had said that the Congress leadership was "enjoying abroad" when the country needed them. "Congress today has been rejected in almost every state of India because the party and its leadership have not been able to present a basic road map to the people," he said.
Ashwani Kumar calls leadership 'indifferent'
Ashwani Kumar, who was the Union law minister between 2012 and 2013, said he could not bear the indifference of the party leadership anymore after he sent his registration letter to Sonia Gandhi in February and said he would serve the country outside of the party.
Calling his decision "painful" he told ANI, "I thought long and hard, and realised the way internal processes of Congress are in place today, I couldn't continue any longer consistent with my dignity and self-esteem. I thought my shoulders weren't strong enough to carry the weight of indifference."
Sunil Jhakar from Punjab, RPN Singh from Uttar Pradesh and Ripun Bora from Assam were among other leaders who quit in 2022.
2021 saw an exodus too
Not just this year, the Congress consistently lost prominent faces in 2021 as well. Senior leaders such as Jitin Prasada left the Congress to join the BJP, while former Mahila Congress chief Sushmita Dev joined the TMC. In Kerala PC Chacko joined the NCP ahead of the 2021 assembly elections.
After joining the BJP, Prasada had said in June 2021, "I left the Congress not due to any individual or for any post. The reason I left the Congress was because there is a rising disconnect between the party and the people. And that is the reason, its vote share is shrinking in Uttar Pradesh and there is no plan to revive the party."
Chacko, meanwhile, had blamed factionalism in Kerala as the reason for quitting. He had said that he had pointed the issue to the "central leadership" without avail. Chacko had said, "In Kerala, there is no Congress party. There are two parties -- Congress (I) led by Ramesh Chennithala and Congress (A) led by Oommen Chandy."
Pushback began in 2020
While the Grand Old Party saw a spate of resignations and criticism towards the leadership in the past two years, it was a letter by 23 members of the Congress, later called 'G-23', that had first openly sought a rehaul of the party.
Several prominent Congress leaders like Shashi Tharoor, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Kapil Sibal, Manish Tewari, Anand Sharma, Manish Tewari, PJ Kurian, Renuka Chaudhary, Milind Deora, and Ajay Singh had signed the letter. It called for a "full time" leadership that is active in the field and "visible" in party offices, dissolution of powers to state units and revamping the CWC .
Even then the leaders had called for effective leadership for the party. "The uncertainty over the leadership and the drift have demoralised the Congress workers and further weakened the Party. There has been an erosion of the support base with leaders and functionaries leaving the Party in a number of States," it had said.
The letter claimed that the party was missing the "nurturing leadership" it earlier had. "Congress Party is no more nurturing leadership at the State and National level, which it had traditionally done. There are no regular deliberations at the AICC as well as the PCC sessions, which deal with policies and programmes addressing societal concerns of a diverse nation," it had said.
Do you always want to share the authentic news with your friends?